My dad always told me, ‘If you’re going to make yourself a target, you might as well make yourself a big one: that way, even if they hit you, they might just miss the painful bits’. And he knew a thing or two my dad because, although I have been winged a time or two, I have never really been floored.
I was a small ginger kid. I learned quickly that I had two choices in my life: learn to fight or learn to make people laugh. I chose the latter because, quite frankly, I was never much cop at the former. Obviously the best thing I could have done would have been to keep my head down, but I was never great at that either. Although by no means a performer (the fear of failure has always overwhelmed the prospect of success) I never quite mastered the knack of keeping my mouth shut. I’ve got better as I’ve got older, but my brain is still much slower off the blocks than my mouth. My brain, when it eventually does decide to intervene, often does so in such a way as to make things worse. Like a railway signalman who averts disaster by diverting a speeding train away from a broken siding, but into the path of a runaway express, it generally succeeds only in drawing attention onto what could, otherwise, have been ignored. When put under pressure, my brain seldom makes the right decision. At least, not until it’s much too late, by which time, of course, it has become the wrong one.
Now, I can hear your teeth gnashing from here. This is not news to you, I know: we have covered this ground before, you and I. So, why are we back here again? Well, it all started out with a customer at work. I don’t like to discuss politics: it gets me nowhere. If I tell you my opinions, you will either agree with me (which, seeing as we were not disagreeing over anything in the first place, will have got us precisely nowhere) or you will disagree with me, in which case we may we may feel honour-bound to defend our relative positions and fall out. If you know me, you will probably know my opinions anyway. If you don’t, why would you care? The one truth I know about politics is that no amount of ‘discussion’ will change opinions. Maybe it should, but it never does.
However, today I was reprimanded, quite brusquely, by a lady who told me in no uncertain terms that I should be prepared to state what I believe in and to defend my position whatever the circumstance. She said it was my duty. I asked her why, but she just said, ‘Suppose you were friendly with someone and they didn’t feel the same about things as you do.” I was confused by this. I said, ‘but surely that can only be a good thing?’ She stared at me as if I was deranged and muttered something that I’m pretty certain contained the word ‘moron’.
She left. I knew her views. She had told me those before she scalded me for keeping mine to myself. They were different to my own and it bothered me not one bit. She knew my views too, and it actually bothered her none that they were different to her own. What bothered her was that I was not prepared to argue about it. All she actually wanted from me was a target and, for once, I managed to keep my head down. Maybe I’ve just found my own way to fight.
You say the hill’s too steep to climb, climbing
You say you’d like to see me try, climbing
You pick the place and I’ll choose the time
And I’ll climb the hill in my own way
Just wait a while for the right day
And as I rise above the tree-line and the clouds
I look down hearing the sound of the things you’ve said today.
‘Fearless’ Pink Floyd (Gilmour, Waters)